Thomas Wictor

One of our Playboys is missing

One of our Playboys is missing

Here’s one the most mortifying episodes of me getting caught stealing.

When we lived in Stavanger, Norway, I’d babysit the local foreign kids for extra money. It was very lucrative. One family of clients consisted of a Norwegian father, his American wife, and their little boy. I lived close enough to walk to and from their apartment.

The Norwegian father looked exactly like the character actor Richard Lynch.

His friendliness was incredibly sinister. It was like the chuckling bonhomie of hit men in gangster movies, putting their targets at ease before blowing off their heads.

I can’t remember the family’s name, so I’ll call them the Eglands. The father was built like a weightlifter. I saw him only in button-up shirts and ties, but his shoulders, chest, and arms were gigantic. From the way he walked, I’m thinking he was a gymnast. He may also have been a veteran of the Norwegian army.

He had this cigarette trick that always scared the crap out of me. He’d shake a Prince from the pack and then—holding it filter down—slam it on the kitchen table as hard as he could. It was how he tamped the tobacco.

BAM! He did it with all his strength, as though he hated the table and the cigarette and wanted to kill them. I started smoking at seventeen and quit when I was thirty-three, but I never tapped or slammed my cigarettes to tamp the tobacco. Tamping is supposed to make cigarettes burn more slowly, I guess. I didn’t care how slowly or how fast they burned. All that mattered was getting that sweet, sweet nicotine into my blood and then my brain.

When I saw this scene from the Chuck Norris film Invasion USA, it pretty much gave me a PTSD flashback because that was just what Mr. Egland did with his cigarettes.

WARNING: NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH. This is one of the most notorious gross-outs in film history. Remember that they’re just acting, Richard Lynch was by all accounts a sweetheart, and the people killed are evil criminals.

Thank God that movie hadn’t been made when I babysat for the Eglands.

This man frightened me to death, so what did I do? When his pale, neurotic, elfin boy was asleep, I prowled through the house. On my second babysitting mission, I discovered a giant stash of Playboy magazines in the master-bedroom bookshelves. Hundreds of them. I was sixteen and utterly inexperienced. The temptation was too great. The third time I babysat, I heisted a Playboy.

Stuck it down my pants. The Eglands came home, paid me, and I left. It was only a five minute walk back to my house. I couldn’t wait to get downstairs and look at those proud boobs, glossy buttocks, and mounds of public hair.

The second I opened the front door, the phone in the hall rang. Nobody in my family was around, so I answered it.

“Hello, Tom?” Mr. Egland said. I could hear the smile in his voice.

“Yes sir.”

“One of our Playboys is missing. Did you take it?”

I nearly threw up. How the hell did he find out? There were fifty or so plastic magazine containers in the shelves. They were like these.

I’d checked carefully; the Playboys weren’t arranged by date. Were there nanny cams in 1978? Did they have me on film? I think it’s more likely that Mr. Egland—an ardent connoisseur—simply knew at a glance that something was different about his girlie magazines. There hadn’t been enough time for him to count them all. Or maybe his son had only pretended to be asleep and had crawled under his parents’ bed to watch me commit my crime.

“Father, Tom stole one of the magazines with the bunga-bunga girls.”

There was no way out. Mr. Egland had caught me red-handed. There was only one thing to do.

“No, sir!” I stuttered. “I didn’t take it! I swear!”

“Fair enough,” he said, still smiling. “Goodnight.”

And they had me babysit the following week.

No, I lied. They never called me again. Who could blame them? Mr. Egland struck me as a man who ruled his roost, but I always wondered how his wife felt about his massive collection of Playboys. I didn’t even get to enjoy the one I stole. Being a thief and a liar made me so ashamed that I tossed the magazine as soon as I hung up the phone.

Though I lived in Stavanger for three more years, I don’t think I saw the Eglands again. The babysitting jobs dried up too, so word must’ve gotten out. It was actually a relief. Stealing that Playboy and then lying about it made me forever associate babysitting with my loserdom. It still bothers me. Mr. Egland was scary and bizarre, but he didn’t deserve to have his possessions stolen.

Here’s the issue I swiped. May of 1977.

You can get it on eBay for about $25. The thing is, I couldn’t send $25 or a replacement magazine to Mr. Egland. He’d think it was unbelievably stupid. In fact he’d be embarrassed for me, because that was thirty-six years ago. I can’t make up for what I did. It’s going to eat at me for the rest of my life.

And that’s a good thing.

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